Review: Six Four by Hideo Yokoyama (Translated by Jonathan Lloyd-Davies)

Hi, everyone! So, first things first: I haven’t posted here in a really long time, I know. I’m now into my second semester of my master’s course (time is flying!); but I’m hopefully going to post about that sometime in the next few weeks–once all my deadlines have passed.

In the meantime, what I’ve challenged myself to do this year is to read more books in translation. I’m going to try and read one a month (it may be more than that) and then post a review here, so that hopefully other people will read them too.

Without any further ado, here’s the first one.

(Oh yeah–there may be spoilers! Sorry!)

Six Four by Hideo Yokoyama

Title: Six Four

Author: Hideo Yokoyama

Translator: Jonathan Lloyd-Davies

Published: October 2012 (Translated: March 2016)

Synopsis (Japanese, from goodreads.com): D県警の広報が記者クラブと加害者の匿名問題で対立する中、警察庁長官による、時効の迫った重要未解決事件「64(ロクヨン)」視察が1週間後に決定した。たった7日間しかない昭和64年に起きたD県警史上最悪の「翔子ちゃん誘拐殺人事件」。長官慰問を拒む遺族。当時の捜査員など64関係者に敷かれたかん口令。刑事部と警務部の鉄のカーテン。謎のメモ。長官視察の日に一体何が起きるのか? 組織対個人。驚愕の長編ミステリー。

My synopsis: Fourteen years ago, in a case that shocked the whole of Japan, a seven-year-old girl, Shoko, was kidnapped, held for ransom, and murdered. The case was never solved. In 2002, Yoshinobu Mikami is press director for the police in Prefecture D–and his own daughter, Ayumi, has run away, proving to be impossible to find even with 260,000 police officers on the lookout for her. As the statute of limitations is nearing on Shoko’s murder, Mikami must keep the press at bay and make sure things go well for the commissioner’s visit. However, when Mikami uncovers something that may be related to the Shoko case–the titular Six Four–and attempts to investigate against the orders of his superiors, he finds that he’s not the only one who’s suspicious, and what he finds might just tear the police department apart.

Review: First of all: this book is long. I read it on Kindle, but when I went on the Goodreads page I saw it’s almost 700 pages in English. Plus, it’s kind of slow to get started; there’s a lot of talking at the beginning about the press (as they’re introducing Mikami as the press director), but it’s worth getting through it. I read the first four chapters one day, left it, and then read the rest of the thing in one go a few nights later.

The story is split into a few different branches: there’s Mikami and his wife, Minako, hoping that Ayumi will return to them, and the truth of what happened there and what’s happening in their relationship. There’s Mikami’s almost-constant war with the local press, who are trying to get the police to lift their rule on anonymity. There’s a split in the department, with Criminal Investigations facing off against Administrative Affairs; the commissioner’s visit for the anniversary of the Six Four case; Mikami’s investigation into the information he’s found; his rivalry with another member of the force and his development with his team… There are so many strings here, but Yokoyama weaves them together skillfully, in a way that, when the twist comes, it’s a beautiful moment of realisation.

However, the book is slow. It’s supposed to be. There’s a lot of talk about inter-departmental politics (really, a lot; it’s a police procedural, but a fair chunk of the book is office politics) and none of this feels rushed; even the final twist, good as it is, doesn’t come as a short, sharp bang, but rather as a peaceful moment of, ‘Oh, of course…’ And the ending matches that, too, with the conclusion that, okay, this is how things are for now, but we’ll fix it if we have to.

As this is a translation, it’s really interesting to see the cultural differences present. I think, in some places, a Western reader might–not necessarily miss out, but not quite get the urgency that a Japanese reader might. For instance, Yokoyama brings up the concept of ‘saving face’ a lot, which is one I fully understand in theory. However, when Mikami is facing off against the press to prevent them sending a written complaint to the captain, it felt very flat, because I’m pretty sure that if that happened here, the police chief would take the complaint and read it–and that would be it. No embarrassment involved. So there are some moments where, while I understand what Yokoyama’s point is, it’s not something I get on a subconscious level, the way I would a cultural nuance from the UK. But, that’s okay. That’s the point of reading fiction like this–to understand something from the viewpoint of other people and their cultures, and it’s really special to read it here.

Lloyd-Davies appears to have done an impressive job in translating the text into English, too; he seems to grasp the pace that Yokoyama was going for and it means we have these nice close-ups of the characters and then the realisations, especially on Mikami’s part.

My main issue aside from the pacing, especially within the first few chapters, is that there are a lot of characters and many names begin with the same letter or syllable (I guess because they’d be written in kanji)–and this can be incredibly confusing. However, I have read somewhere that the paperback has a list of characters in the front in the English version–so maybe that would be helpful if you decide to read it.

Overall, I’d definitely recommend this book if you have some time on your hands and you’re looking for a crime novel that’s not so explosive and/or violent (see: Gone Girl, etc.). There is some violence here, but it’s minimal (it’s usually on Mikami’s part, too). Really, this is just a compelling book about the police in Japan, about their relationship with the press, and about how one man, eventually, fights for what he believes in.

Rating: 4/5

Goodreads

Amazon UK

Amazon US

How To Deal With Pre-Reading

Hi, guys! I said I’d be back on Thursdays, so here I am – admittedly, a little later than I anticipated, but I’ve spent most of the day packing, so I think I get a pass there.

The topic for this week is pre-reading. Mostly because I’m still bogged down in the middle at the beginning of it – it’s amazing how attractive other books have become since I got that list.

What is pre-reading?

Quick fact: I didn’t have any pre-reading to do before I began my Bachelor’s degree and since we usually chose our modules at the beginning of the year, we had to do the little reading we had as we went along. Of course, we were supposed to be constantly improving our language skills instead, but it means that this is all new to me, too.

So, what is pre-reading?

A few weeks after I was accepted onto my course, I was sent an email with a pre-reading list; a list of books and journal articles that I should read before I begin. In case you’re wondering what the list looks like…

Pre-Reading List

That’s a fair amount of books to get through (some of which, you’ll notice, I still don’t have) before I begin.

However, it seems that all of these things are background reading. Pre-reading is always background reading, but usually, it’s a specific chapter or chapters for a seminar so that you can discuss it. This seems broader than that and it means that many of the strategies I’ve found online (like this one or this one) don’t feel appropriate.

I could be wrong, of course, but then I’m not going into this reading with any questions – I don’t know enough to have those questions yet.

So, what can I do instead?

My Pre-Reading Strategy

As with anything I ever recommend, YMMV on whether this works for you or not. It’s been working for me because I’m a very visual learner and a couple of passes through a text means that I remember a fair bit of it. Adjust as you see fit.

So, we’ll take one of the books from that list. I’m, uh, still working on In Other Words, so we’ll start there.

When I get to a new chapter, I have a flick through it. I’m on my Kindle, so I look more at the number of headings and subheadings than page numbers (because I don’t always have them), to gauge how long the chapter is.

I also skim the introduction of the chapter and the last section; in In Other Words, that’s the exercises for the chapter. This gives me a good idea of what I should be reading about.

Then, it’s time to read. I always try to read the chapter through in one pass, without taking notes. I see how much I absorb and if I could give a brief summary at the end. By this stage, I have a good idea of what the chapter is about but some of it is still nebulous; there’s a lot of information in there.

I could split that up, but I find that if I do that, I still have to re-read what I read before because I’ve forgotten it. Although it’s tiring, it works well for me to read it all in one go.

The next stage is to start making notes. I try and condense as much as possible and only copy examples (of which there are many) if I think I won’t understand the term or point later. For my notes, it’s mostly bullet points, with some recurring terms highlighted because they’ll probably come up again.

The last thing I do is try to think up a brief summary of the chapter again, or of the main headings, if that works better. I haven’t been writing these down, but I think I’ll start to – writing a summary in your own words is always a good way to check what you’ve learnt and that you haven’t just memorised it without absorbing any information.

And that’s it!

My Schedule

So, my pre-reading has been slow going because I’ve been kind of procrastinating and also quite busy – but I need to get on top of it. I’m still on the first book on my list (oops!), so it’s time to put a schedule together and get stuff done.

I move this Sunday and I’ve got two weeks then until my course starts. Six and a half books and thirty-four journal articles… I’m sure I can do it. (It’s half a book and three journal articles a day, I’ll be fiiiiine. 😉 )

My schedule, then, will hopefully go as follows:

11/09: finish In Other Words, read three journal articles
12/09: start Translation Studies, read three journal articles
13/09: finish Translation Studies, read three journal articles
14/09: start Stylistic Approaches to Translation, read three journal articles
15/09: finish Stylistic Approaches to Translation, read three journal articles
16/09: start Translating Children’s Literature, read three journal articles
17/09: finish Translating Children’s Literature, read three journal articles
18/09: start Audiovisual Translation: Subtitling, read three journal articles
19/09: (induction week begins!) finish Audiovisual Translation: Subtitling, read three journal articles
20/09: start Comics in Translation*, read three journal articles
21/09: finish Comics in Translation, read three journal articles
22/09: start The Translation of Children’s Literature: A Reader*, read one journal article
23/09: finish The Translation of Children’s Literature: A Reader

* I haven’t found either of these books yet, so I’m going to check the university library (I’m 90% sure they have them) and try and get my hands on them that week.

It looks like a gruelling schedule, but shouldn’t be that bad (journal articles are always a little easier to read if you’re in a hurry because they have a handy abstract) and I have a few days’ leeway if I don’t get everything done.

Of course, do not try this at home – make sure you get all your reading done on time! 😉

I’ll be back next week to let you all know how it’s going and possibly to talk about motivation. Or about something cool I’ve seen or read. I’m not sure yet.

You’ll have to find out next Thursday, I guess!

Willkommen!

Well, hi there! Welcome to my first post on my new blog: Babel Fish Out of Water.

If you’re here right as this blog starts, at the beginning of September 2016, then I guess it’s because you’ve wandered over from my languages blog and so you know a little about me already.

If not, then here’s the basics: I’m Charlotte, a (right now) 24-year-old woman with a degree in German and Mandarin. I have a lot of hobbies, but language learning is up there in the top three, hence the other blog. I’ve spent the last two years living and working in Austria but now I’m back and moving to London to do my master’s degree.

I’ve been running my language learning blog for about four years now, but it’s been off-and-on. I took a little (unexpected) hiatus this summer and the idea for this blog was born: I wanted somewhere to document my master’s woes (and triumphs, I guess…), to talk about things I’m reading and watching, and to talk about translation in general, without polluting the aims of my first blog. I’m still going to run that one as well, but I’m trying to be more reasonable about what I can achieve.

The course I’m going to begin (in 26 days, eek!) is Audiovisual Translation and Popular Culture at City University London. I’m currently slogging my way through pre-reading but I move down to London on the 11th, so I’ll have a couple of weeks when I get there.

What will this blog cover?

Basically, anything, though you can expect to see:

  • Posts about my course
  • Posts about translation in general
  • Posts about books/films/TV shows (it says popular culture up there! 😉 )
  • Posts about cool language things

My language pair is going to be German – English, and I’m not going to post about language-specific things that often (I don’t think), but you can also expect the occasional aside about Mandarin and possibly Spanish. If you want more language things, go here.

I’m going to do my best to post every Thursday (#translationthursday, anyone?) – so if there’s anything you want to see, drop me a line!

And, as a treat, here’s a fun meme I found!

Philosoraptor - Translate

[Source]

See you all next week!